How to win at Punto Banco
Punto Banco is a variation of the European Baccarat, played primarily in North America, Canada and Australia. It is also (along with Sic Bo, Pai Gow and Keno) one of the Big Four Chinese gambling games and, as such, can be found in the separate Asian areas of casinos worldwide.
The big difference between Punto Banco and Baccarat is that there is no opportunity for the player to act as banker. But as explained in this article, that makes little difference to the clued-up gambler.
The aim of the game is to predict whose hand, the Banker's (Banco) or the Player's (Punto), will be closer to the value of nine. You can also bet on the possibility of a tie.
The point values of the cards are very simple to follow. All 10s and picture cards have a value of zero, and all other cards (Ace through 9) are worth their face value (Aces are always worth 1). When the total of two or more cards is greater than 10, the point total is reduced by 10. For example if a hand is dealt an 7 and a 5, resulting in a total of 12, 10 is subtracted, leaving a point total of 2 for that hand.
The important point to bear in mind when playing Punto Banco is that winning depends on the hand you bet on, not the hand you play.
If the hand that you bet on wins, you are paid double your bet, unless you bet on a tie. If you bet on a tie, the payout is eight times the amount you bet. If you bet on the Banker's hand, and win, the House charges a 5% commission.
If you bet on a hand, and the hand loses, you lose your bet. If you do not bet on a tie, and the hands tie, your bet is returned to you.
A quick look at the odds in Punto Banco will show where the house has its edge - in the 'Tie' bets. Probability states that this bet will win less frequently, and so the pay- out is correspondingly large, with the aim of tempting the player. However, as with most casino games, the two do not exactly match - the odds of 'Tie' winning are 10.5-1, though the payout is only 8 to 1.
The two main bets (Banker and Player) are similar in that their probabilities are equal, though the payouts and house edge differ.
The Banker bet is considered the safest as the house edge is closest to 1%. In all casino games, the house edge is lower only in some bets on craps. The chances of the Banker bet winning are slightly higher than the Player bet, but bear in mind that if the Banker does win, a 5% commission, called the vigorish, will be deducted from your win. For example, if you bet £200 on the Banker, and win, your take will be £390, not £400 as on a £200 Player bet. Despite this, with such a low house edge, the Banker bet is the safest bet in the long run.
The Player bet has a slightly higher house edge, usually around 1.25%. There also is no vigorish, so nothing is deducted from your winnings. There is a margin here for profit for those wishing to take a slightly bigger risk.
Some players find that betting on the Banker seems somehow unnatural, as though they're betting against themself. This probably comes from playing Blackjack, where the player is always trying to beat the banker.
Remember, in Punto Banco, the winner is the one who predicts the winning hand, not the one who plays it.
Whether you use the Tie bet or not comes down to your gambling style. If you're looking to win big, it has to be considered as an option, so long as the rules of our betting strategy are followed:
limit your losses at the outset - decide how many losing bets you're prepared to make in the session;
quit when you're ahead - when the 'Tie' bet wins, pocket your winnings and switch bets or games.
So my recommended strategy for finding the edge in Punto Banco would be to stick with the Banker bet in the main, but occasionally 'test the water' by playing 4 or 5 bets on Tie, always remembering to stop if you're losing and switch back if you're winning.
About the Author: Andy Follin is a dedicated leisure gambler and author of Fortune Palace, a site which explains the rules, odds and strategies of the Big Four Chinese gambling games Punto Banco, Sic Bo, Keno and Pai Gow. He is also an ardent believer in que sera, sera whatever will be, WILL be.